We’ve gotten into a habit of shooting artist portraits either the same day or immediately following an artistic project. We come up with our main idea first, and then examine our portrait ideas for the folks on our list. And if nothing is a perfect match, we think about who might fit within a scene. The reason is simple, it’s hard to justify the costs of doing such elaborate projects without resulting in multiple images. An art series or an elaborate portrait by itself is too much of an undertaking for one picture without backing. But once we have the core idea, it is easy for us to noodle different ways to work with the bones of the set for dramatically different pictures.

Illustrator Josh Ellingson was one of those instances where we could double dip the set, and crew to achieve multiple images. Josh was a real trooper as well and would not only come in for a portrait session, but also play a role in the larger set we were shooting for Luvin’ Rockets. As we were using force perspective for that set, we would need to shoot Josh separately — bonus as we could use the same set up as his portrait.

The shot for the art piece needed to have him as a g-man riding on a diminutive rocket shooting a laser gun (pew! pew!). And we noodled that we could use this rocket to help construct a scene for Josh. The ideas were: Josh riding a rocket chasing a manifestation of his compulsion while wearing a crazy eel helmet; standing next to the rocket on a moonscape with a ’50s sense of pride with his eel helmet under one arm and briefcase at the ready; and perhaps a simple portrait as well.

We clicked off the main portrait idea (I like to jump in to it) and started to explore that ‘maybe’ material as we were switching setups. One thing I found right off, Josh is ruggedly handsome and can take light quite well. I had him give me a straight look toward camera, adjusted lighting slightly, and picture four was a winner. I double checked with the crew about his mussed hair, the outfit etc. before moving on, but everyone was down with it — first bonus in the can.

This shot could use a background to compliment it (as we were still working on a black velvet sweep). Stacey and I went to local prop shop The Prop Co-op and found these old equipment racks. Luckily we didn’t have to even haul them out as they were lined up (and I brought a speedlight and bounce card). Retro styling complete.

We then went to our other simple portrait idea, taking the eel helmet and running the tubing up and out of the frame. This idea reminded me of the movie poster shot for Brazil and just tickled me.

Now it was up to Josh and I to explore it and find out the right personality to go in the scene. It took a little bit to get the eels settled and in the right configuration for the camera. But that gave Josh and I a chance to work things out a bit and try for a more straight approach. No problem for Josh again and we had taken care of the shot on our list. But now’s that time when you ask where else you can go. I could tell Josh had a decent funny guy inside there and asked him to let that guy out. He responds, “like this?” I click the shutter and we get winner number two. We continued to play around with the goofy side a bit, but it was this first relaxed one that really came across. Don’t fight it if you don’t have to.

I really liked some of the straight ones with the helmet on. But since we had another straight one (the one above) that was a good solid shot, we could let the goofy serve to compliment it. A bit of a fab’d spacey background by Stacey pulled it together and we had a nice little duo.

We’ve yet to put together the moon man shot and the ridding the rocket, but those will make their way out of the pipe eventually. And we’re already talking about another shot of Josh that really focuses in on his work a bit more, than just his personality. All in due time. For now, we’ll let those happy little on-set moments have their day.

About The Author

Director - Photographer Loves crafting images and playing in the dark. You can delve deeper into his work in his portfolio and blog.

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